Collegiate & Alumnae Blog Contributions

A Rose Ever Blooming

Catherine Jennings
Delta Psi (U at Albany-SUNY)

Chapter Adviser
Lambda Sigma (U of Georgia)

Four and a half years ago, I found myself representing my collegiate chapter at my first Leadership Institute in Nashville. I was fairly nervous as I traveled from upstate New York to our International Headquarters to meet hundreds of other AOII women, and I just wasn't sure what to expect. What would the other AOII sisters be like? What would AOII HQ be like? Would we be able to sleep in? All questions a typical college sorority woman might ask. :)

Although I soon found that there wouldn't be ANY time to sleep in, it didn't take me long to decide that I wouldn't mind the lack of sleep. Attending LI in 2008 changed my entire perspective on AOII. Meeting more than 600 sorority sisters from all over North America made me realize that Alpha Omicron Pi isn't just four years of college fun, AOII is a lifetime commitment to sisterhood and the love of our great Fraternity. That weekend in Nashville led me to the decision that I would always make AOII a top priority and I would continue to give back to this organization throughout my life.

After graduating from college, I moved to Athens, Georgia to live with my cousin as I looked for jobs in Atlanta. I immediately contacted the Chapter Adviser at Lambda Sigma to find out how I could get involved. Within the week, I had jumped in head first as the Standards Adviser and I started this new chapter as a volunteer AAC member.

Over the last three years, I have continued to volunteer with Lambda Sigma and I have recently taken on the difficult but rewarding role of Chapter Adviser. I could not be happier with my decision to continue to give my time to our great Fraternity. I sincerely love working with the women of Lambda Sigma and the volunteers on our AAC and in our network. We all work together to ensure the success of the chapter and of the organization as a whole. Through volunteering as an adviser, I have met countless new friends and sisters, learned valuable life lessons and discovered an even deeper appreciation for Alpha Omicron Pi. I enjoy the chance to give back to the organization that has given me so much.

I encourage all of my fellow sisters to reach out and find a collegiate chapter, alumnae chapter or AAC to volunteer with. Find your niche and take the opportunity to connect with AOII as an alumna. I plan to continue to give back to AOII throughout the coming years and I can't wait to see where the future will bring me. I think that one of our songs "A Rose Ever Blooming" says it best: "An AOII now and forever I'll be, for AOII means more than the world to me."

Because I Was Asked

Network Director, Network 8
Beta Phi (Indiana  U)


The short answer is, because I was asked. The question?  “Why do I volunteer?”  I won’t name any names… in fact I doubt that this AOII sister even remembers asking me.  But sometimes, all it takes is being asked to serve.  

The longer answer as to why I said yes when asked is harder to address.  We all get asked to do things.  Some of us have a harder time saying no than others.  But we always have the option of saying no.  This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked why I volunteer for AOII; it’s a question I’ve tried to answer before.   

Initially I said yes because of what I felt I was given by my collegiate chapter.  I, like so many of us, loved my collegiate AOII experience.  Having only brothers, the sisterhood I felt was something that really filled a need in my life.  The leadership skills I gained were invaluable.  I initially said yes because I felt I needed to pay it forward.

Over the years I continued to say yes when asked to serve at either the collegiate level or alumnae level.  I still hope I am paying it forward but I now do it for more selfish reasons too.  I’ve found that while those 3-4 years we spend as collegiate members are amazing, the sisterhood we have for the rest of our lives is even more invaluable.  I’ve developed wonderful friendships with my alumnae sisters – both here in Denver and through my Network involvement.  I truly value these friendships.  I’m fortunate to be able to work with several AOII chapters here in the west.  I’ve come to love these chapters as much as my own.  I can’t imagine not having my AOII sisters in my life.

So I continue to say yes when asked because of course I get so much more than I give.  I never thought that saying yes to that initial volunteer position would still have me involved almost 20 years later.  I doubt that AOII sister did either.  Maybe I should call her and thank her. 

Connecting Back to AOII

Allison Marshall
Network Specialist - Finance
Iota Chapter (U of Illinois) 
My name is Allison Marshall, and I serve as a Network Specialist-Finance in Network 3. I have been volunteering now for about 8 years, and I still find it to be incredibly rewarding. Like so many of my sisters, I was not the stereotypical “sorority girl” in college. I had my fair share of fun, but I found much more satisfaction in my time as a chapter officer and just spending time with my sisters. When I graduated, I was feeling a bit burned out.  

While in law school, I tried to participate as an adviser for Iota Chapter, my chapter of initiation, but my heart really wasn’t in it.  I decided it would be best for me to take a break from AOII.  After law school, I moved back to Chicago to work as a prosecutor in the State’s Attorney’s Office.  A few years later, I was contacted by a fellow Iota about volunteering for the Delta Rho Chapter at DePaul University.  By then I was missing AOII, so I thought I would give it a try.  I quickly got back into the swing of things and found myself taking on more and more responsibility.  I was constantly amazed by all of the wonderful college women that came into the chapter.  I was later elected as the Chapter Adviser where I remained until my appointment to the NS-F position in 2010.

Volunteering for AOII has been an invaluable experience for me in so many ways.  Not only have I had the pleasure of helping so many amazing collegians, I have also measurably improved my own abilities in public speaking and leadership – after all, how tough could anything be after working with large groups of college women.  Additionally, I have reconnected with many of my college friends and met so many more amazing sisters.  The women I have gotten to know as a volunteer are now some of my closest friends, and I know they will remain so throughout my life.  

As an extra bonus, my excitement about our Ritual has been rekindled and even grown.  Participating in Ritual at International Convention was a fabulous experience, unlike any other that I have had in AOII.  I now cannot imagine my life without volunteering for AOII, even being newly married with a little one on the way.  My heart is filled with gratitude for the time I have spent as a volunteer.  I look forward to meeting more wonderful AOIIs and helping our college chapters continue to grow.
Where Does Your AOII Volunteer Journey Start?



AOII Convention, 1997
Katherine Thornton
Network Specialist - Recruitment
Nu Beta (Ole Miss)


   My AOII journey began almost 17 years ago at The University of Mississippi (Nu Beta chapter) where I was initiated.  After graduation in 2002 I knew I wanted to stay in Oxford.  The town itself is amazing and has lots to offer for young graduates.  I found a job at a local hotel working the front desk.  My younger sister had just transferred from Ole Miss to Southern Miss in Hattiesburg so my AOII connection was disconnected… or so I thought.  I remember I received a phone call from a sister a couple of years ahead of me asking me if I would attend an AAC meeting at the Nu Beta house.  I told her I would but I wasn’t really sure I was up for advising considering I never held any “big” positions on Leaders’ Council.  (COB, T-shirt Chairman, and a few committees were all I had on my AOII resume.)  

   I attended the meeting, and the main purpose of it was to find someone who could take over as Chapter Adviser.   By the end of the meeting I was given some binders and information and I would start the transition to Chapter Adviser.  It was a scary but exciting time for me.  Other AAC members helped me transition along with AOII staff and a supportive network.  That was November of 2002 - almost 11 years later and I’m still volunteering for AOII. 

I volunteer because I think AOII is about making young women into the best leaders on their campuses and in their communities.  Without a strong network of volunteers like the AAC and network specialists their experience might not be positive.  Believe it or not it is very fulfilling to work with our collegiate chapters and see them reach their goals.  In the end it does make you smile to know that perhaps your email or the late night phone call you had with an AAC member helped a chapter to succeed on their campus.  

My great Aunt Lydia was District President for the women’s fraternity Kappa Alpha Theta from 1929-1933, so perhaps “volunteering for my sorority” is in my blood.  I am not sure there is a “gene” for volunteering but I do think that every AOII alumna should at least look into volunteering with a local AAC or local alumnae group.  It is important to give back to an organization that is so very dear to all of us.  You do not have to be an AOII guru of a specific area either.  Since my volunteer journey with AOII started I have learned so much about our organization.  Our volunteers make a difference in our chapters whether big or small.  They also help to take our chapters to the next level, you know, "Exceed the Expectation."  To close, whether you volunteer because it is in genes or because you love AOII, it is something you will look back on with no regret. 

"Why Do You Volunteer for AOII?"


Kathleen Donohue
Network Specialist - Development
Epsilon Chi (Elon U)  

   I’m often asked this question by many people in life, my husband, my parents, my non-AOII friends, my AOII friends.  It’s a question I love to answer.  I get to talk about all of the wonderful things AOII has given me and how my experience as a volunteer has made me the woman I am today. 

   Growing up in the Boston area, I wanted to go away from home for college so I attended Elon University in North Carolina and was initiated into the Epsilon Chi chapter of AOII.  I had a fantastic four years but after graduating I decided to move back home to Boston.  I realized I didn’t know that many people in the Boston area because by being away at school I lost touch with many of my high school friends and my college friends mainly stayed in the southeast after graduation.  I thought I would sign up to be an advisor for AOII as a way to not only give back but also meet women in the area.  I joined Delta Chapter’s AAC at Tufts University and began my volunteer experience.  

   The women I worked with on that AAC became more than fellow advisors, they became friends and role models.  They are my support system and some of the most important people in my life.  The saying that “a stranger is a friend you haven’t met yet” has proven to be true in my AOII life.  I’ve had the opportunity to work with many collegians, alumnae volunteers, and staff members and each and every one of them has had a lasting impact on my life.  I am constantly inspired by the AOII women I work with who motivate me to be involved and achieve results.  
     
   Volunteering for AOII also gives me opportunities to develop professionally and personally.  I’ve been challenged to "Exceed the Expectation" and grow to be better.  I know how to manage and recruit volunteers, empower leaders to succeed, develop and implement presentations and programs, speak to large groups of people, and much more.  By working on these skills as a volunteer, there is always a resource to turn to for help whether it’s a staff member, a fellow volunteer or another AOII I know.  As a data analyst for a computer software company, I would have never been exposed to these skills and I would never have the same support system I have in AOII.  

   I’ve also been able to volunteer with the AOII Foundation in addition to the Fraternity.  As an AOII Foundation Ambassador, I enjoy being able to speak to women about the AOII Foundation and encourage them to support scholarship opportunities, the Ruby Fund, and grant opportunities.  I am also able to hear personal stories about how the AOII Foundation has made a difference in members’ lives.  The Foundation offers a different volunteer experience that complements my involvement with the Fraternity.    
One of my favorite parts about being an AOII volunteer is recruiting new AOII volunteers.  I love talking to women about my experience and sharing with them the possibilities when they join an AAC or alumnae chapter, volunteer to facilitate a workshop at a chapter event, organize a social get together for AOIIs in their area, or volunteer in any capacity.  I continue to serve as a volunteer for AOII because I feel AOII has given me the greatest gift of all - friendship and love - and volunteering is my opportunity to hopefully give those same things to other AOIIs along the way. 

I Promised My Loyalty to AOII


Cayla Lanier
Network Specialist - Leadership
Gamma Theta (U of South Florida)

People look at me a little funny when I mention my sorority. 

"What are you doing this weekend, Cayla?" 

"I'm driving across the state to host a leadership workshop for my sorority." 

"Huh."  

"Cayla, do you have any travel plans for this summer?" 

"Yes, actually! I am going to Chicago for my sorority convention." 

"Oh."

I know what they are thinking. I'm over thirty, a professional academic advisor for a university honors college, and a mom.  "Aren't  you a little too old for this?"

Some days I think they are right. But that's the life of a volunteer, it's not always fun and games. Some days it is a lot of work: emails and conference calls and paperwork. Coaching a chapter through obstacles and listening to frustrated members and advisors. It's late night text messages and emergency phone calls.  And then I get to visit a chapter and I connect with my sisters young and old over the things we have in common. I get invited to the chapter house on the campus I work at to watch Pitch Perfect with all the girls.  I get to witness growth and maturity. I get the first phone call when one of my girls is chosen as an ELC. I watch women make thoughtful leadership decisions and see how they become stronger. This is why I do it.  It's rewarding.

When I promised my loyalty to AOII, she promised me that there would be good days and bad days, but that she would be there regardless.  As a volunteer, I am connected to a network of AOII sisters to answer my questions, to brainstorm, to share my disappointments, to collaborate, and to celebrate my joys and successes.  I have met new friends, some of whom I haven't even met in person yet.  One of these friends will introduce me to Carole Jones, my AOII hero, at Convention this summer, since they go way back. An AOII, wherever she may be, is a sister indeed.

I loved my college years in AOII. I held officer positions, I made floats for homecoming, I danced at socials and learned the politics of conducting business meetings. I grew as an individual and learned lessons that prepared me for my professional life. But it has been my time as an AOII volunteer that has truly taught me the meaning behind our ritual and shaped my own leadership skills. I find myself using those skills and AOII experiences to relate to my students and co workers at my job. I am still challenged, yet I'm also still rewarded. Perhaps one day I will decide that I am too old to be messing around with a sorority.  But then I see Peg Crawford and think, nah, I've got a lot of years left in me.

The Gift of Service

Melissa Parsons Healy
Omega (Miami University) 1996
NS-D 

When I first joined AOII, I never imagined the impact it would have on my life. I was hoping to find deep and lasting friendships and in the past 17 years I have found that and so much more. As a collegiate member, my AOII sisters helped me to find my own voice and I became the person I never thought I could be. When I graduated, I decided that I would find a way to be an active volunteer wherever and whenever I was needed. In my mind, it was the least I could do for an organization that had given me so much. 

As I look back on my years in AOII, I realize that my initial desire to volunteer was driven primarily by a deep sense of obligation. With time, this sense of obligation has lifted and been replaced with the simple fact that I care about what happens to our Fraternity. I care about AOII - in fact, I love AOII - and I want to play a part in our future. Whatever role I can play – big or small – I want to play that role. Simply because I care.

I’ve reached a point in my life as a volunteer where I know that I will never have all the answers, but I know where to look to find them and who to call when I really need advice. I will make mistakes, but I am surrounded by incredible women who can empathize and will help me untangle complex situations. I will feel overwhelmed by life, but I am part of something bigger than myself – and I’ve learned that the embrace of AOII in times of hardship is like no other. 

As the years have passed and my life continues to change, the constancy of AOII is a source of significant strength and inspiration. What started as a desire to give has turned into a love that I receive. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but slowly, gradually, moment by moment, I have grown to realize that I am a stronger and wiser mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend and leader because of AOII. That’s the magic of this experience we call AOII. We share a sisterhood that is incredibly, often indescribably, powerful and life-changing.

My life has never been the same since I made the conscious decision to invest deeply in AOII not only in college, but throughout my entire life. What a precious gift AOII has given to me. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to fully express the gratitude I feel in my heart. The best way I know how to do that is to continue to volunteer and take on the role within AOII that I am called to play. 

If you are currently an AOII volunteer, you know what I mean. If you aren’t – but perhaps you are considering becoming one – my advice is to dive in head first. You absolutely won’t regret it… and I look forward to sharing this incredible volunteer experience with you.

It's A "Thank You!"


Liz Pietsch
Beta Phi (Indiana U)
Network Specialist-Alumnae



Being an AOII volunteer has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, whether it was serving as an AAC member, Corporation Board member, Alumnae Chapter officer or Network Specialist.  Over the last 30 years AOII has given me confidence, leadership skills, enjoyment and sisterhood.  It is the friendships that I have made that I treasure most! 

When I moved to California from the Chicago area 5 years ago I knew no one.  It was AOII that came to my rescue.  I reached out to the East Bay Alumnae Chapter and they embraced me.  I had instant friends that I felt like I had known for a lifetime.  I try to tell collegians…you leave school after you graduate but you never graduate from AOII!  The best way to say “thank you” to AOII for all I have received is to give back a little of my time.
Never Say Never


Brandi Nunnery
Rho Omicron (Middle Tennessee State U)
Nashville Area AP



I never, and when I say never....I mean never ever....thought I would be a volunteer in an alumnae chapter.  For fourteen years, I was a devoted volunteer in the collegiate chapter world as an AAC member, Network Specialist, and Network Director.  Yes, I was a dues-paying member of my alumnae chapter, but I did not attend events.  I thought paying my dues was enough since I was so active in my volunteer roles.     

So when my most recent volunteer position ended, I began the waiting game for my next role in AOII.  I decided to check out the Nashville Area Alumnae Chapter website and found that the meeting information and officers were outdated.  I contacted our Headquarters and discovered that our chapter was, in fact, not operating.  Even though I had never been interested in alumnae chapter programming, I could not sit idle and let our chapter collapse completely.  

Fast forward to today.  Guess what?  I'm finally the ruby in the apex of the A....yes, ladies~ I'm an Alumnae Chapter President of a thriving Ruby chapter of 90 members!  My devotion to our Fraternity has been solid over the years, yet I never realized how much it would mean to me to become a Chapter President.  It means the world to me!

And while I was involved in my collegiate chapters' philanthropy, leadership, training, scholarship, and Panhellenic INDIRECTLY in my remote positions as a Specialist and Director, I now have the joy of being DIRECTLY involved in these components of chapter life right here in my community.  I'm actually running in the Jingle Bell Run instead of cheering on collegians in Kennesaw, Georgia.  I'm attending the Panhellenic luncheon instead of reading about it in Rho Beta's newsletter.  I'm watching the Half the Sky documentary with my sisters instead of encouraging four colonies to have a viewing event.  

Alumnae chapter involvement gives us the opportunity to enjoy the service, sisterhood, and leadership we experienced during college in the communities in which we now live and work.  Our children can take part in the Arthritis Walk and our best (non-AOII) friends can come to Founders' Day (possible alumna initiate opportunity....hint, hint).  Becoming an Alumnae Chapter volunteer was probably THE most unexpected, yet rewarding and exciting position AOII has presented me with yet.....and I'm so thankful for the opportunity!

The Legacy of My Mother

Sharon Boison
Network Specialist of Alumnae
Kappa Kappa (Ball State U)
Kappa Kappa/Muncie Alumnae at AOII Convention in Scottsdale, AZ: 1977



Network picture from AOII Convention in Tucson.  
My first and most influential example of “AOII for a lifetime” was my mother.  She was a woman of the ‘50s.  She spent just two years at Ball State before she dropped out.  She married my dad after the first year, had my brother after the second.  Back then, this was common (picture Mad Men).  Mom was only an active collegiate member of Kappa Kappa chapter of AOII for one year, but for her, AOII was for life.  She joined the Muncie Alumnae Chapter when it was installed, and stayed active in that chapter until she passed away.  I remember her going off to her meetings, understanding back then only that this was a special group of women.   She stayed in close contact with two of her “pledge”sisters.  I later got to know the women as the alumnae support when I was a collegian – Barb Ottinger, Nancy Campbell, Donna Mavis, Carolann Mikesell, and of course long time adviser Mary Lou Huber.  I even traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona with them for Convention my senior year.  They were so much fun!  I really saw then the connection that AOII women of all generations share.

I started my volunteer career late.   A lot of years had passed since my collegiate days.   My daughter Rachel was just a few years away from college herself, and I wanted to update my sorority knowledge so that I could encourage her to go Greek.  I joined the Indianapolis Alumnae Chapter, and the next thing I knew, I was the President!  After my two year term, I said I wished there was something more to do, as I would miss it.  Next thing I knew, again, I was recruited to be an Alumnae Network Specialist.

And I love it!  I have worked with Alumnae Chapter Presidents from Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Michigan and Toronto.  I’ve met hundreds of sisters who are from all over the US and Canada, from a variety of chapters of initiation, and all generations.   There really is an instant bond that can’t be explained unless you are one!    A wise KK sister (Barb Zipperian) once told me that she had great AOII friends that were not KK.  At the time I wondered how that could be.  Now I get it!

I’ve also had the opportunity to get to know other volunteers, including on our Executive Board.  And I love my Network 3 team!  I’m always excited to see them, to talk to them, and to catch up on what it going on with them and in our Network chapters.  Then there’s the HQ Staff!  Awesome women (and a couple of guys) who keep things running.  Can’t wait to see what they have planned for us in Chicago!!

I love to talk to our collegians.  I try to show them the love I have for AOII, and to help them to realize that AOII does not end with college.  And I try to make sure that our collegiate chapter advisers know how much we appreciate what they do for our chapters in keeping them strong and in molding great women with strong leadership skills and our AOII values.

I have learned that it takes hard work to keep an alumnae chapter strong, and to keep our collegiate chapters strong.  They look like they run like well-oiled machines, but behind each of our chapters are strong leaders and a dedicated core group of sisters who are doing what needs to be done to get things done, sometimes sacrificing personal time with family and friends to be there when needed.  I tell our collegiate women that they will one day go back to their campus with their husbands, partners, children and want to be able to say that is my house , my chapter.  We want all of our chapters to be strong!  And I challenge them, wherever their lives might take them, to volunteer for a local collegiate chapter, even in a small way, and to join an alumnae chapter for sister/friends, support and to keep our Fraternity strong.

I hope it is working!  And that I’m carrying on my mother’s legacy of AOII in a way that would make her proud.

I Am An AOII



Anne Wilmes
Chi Lambda (U of Evansville)
Human Resources Chair

The seeds of volunteerism were planted early in my life. I was 10 years old when I started my first volunteer job.   My mom was the Sunday School Coordinator at our church and I was her assistant.  Each week I sorted and stocked the teachers’ supply boxes prior to the start of class and collected and stored them when classes were over.  I gained much satisfaction from seeing the fruits of my labors – the neat rows of supply boxes on the shelf at the end of the day.  Of course, being my mom’s helper made me feel important, too.

My volunteer time with AOII began soon after my graduation from college in 1980.  Since that time, I have held some type of volunteer role continuously as an alumna member.  Some years, my involvement was minimal and at other times it has involved a significant commitment of time on a weekly basis.

In addition to AOII volunteer roles, I have also volunteered for various school and church related organizations.  I know my time was valued by these groups and I felt that I made a contribution to them through my efforts.  But, why do I do it?  Why do I volunteer for AOII? I am often asked this when others learn what I do with my “free” time.

What makes volunteering for AOII different than other types of volunteer service?  The difference is the bonds of sisterhood we share and the values expressed through our ritual.  It is knowing that our sisterhood started in 1897 with four courageous women – Jessie, Helen, Stella, and Bess.   All four exemplified service through their example.  They taught us that the mainspring of fraternity is service. This model of service is an inspiration to all AOIIs who have gifts and talents to share to enhance the Fraternity experience for current members and members to come.

In my current role on the Human Resources Committee, I have talked with AOIIs all over the US and Canada to learn about their volunteer interests and skills. Even though we may not have met in person, our bonds of sisterhood provide an immediate connection.

AOII has given me the courage to try new things and develop leadership skills that I did not know I had.  In college, AOII became my family away from home.   AOII has helped me become the person I am today.

Stella George Stern Perry’s closing remarks from the 1946 Founders’ Day Greeting have always been a favorite of mine.  She said, “Let each one of us ask ourselves.  Am I accepting these responsibilities, these opportunities which are offered by my sorority? Am I doing my part, the most of which I am capable? Am I making my contribution – giving of myself, my thought, my time? Am I a member of Alpha Omicron Pi or was I a member of Alpha Omicron Pi?

So, why do I do it?  I certainly feel a responsibility to give back to an organization that has given me so much. The truth is, though, the more you give, the more you gain. And I have gained much more than the satisfaction of rows of boxes neatly lined up on a shelf.  I can say, “I AM a member of Alpha Omicron Pi.”Why Do I Volunteer?

by Joan MacCallum
Kappa Phi (McGill U)
Past International President

Why do I volunteer for AOII?  Because I receive so much more than I can ever give.  Upon initiation I realized that AOII was more than friendship and fun within my chapter. It was a philosophy upon which I could base my life.  I still believe and try to live the principles of AOII every day, and I want to share this fun, friendship and philosophy with others.  So, when I graduated I determined to help my collegiate and then my alum chapter, in whatever small way I could. If I didn’t do it, how could I expect others to do it?  If each one does her part AOII will continue to grow and thrive.  Without our help she will wither and die.

Then I was asked to help other chapters, other international committees beyond my locale. And something happened along the way and I ended up as President of a wonderful organization.  Still I was receiving more than I gave because every time I heard our Ritual I found another phrase or section speaking directly to me—giving me the “warm fuzzies”.

I am proud of what AOII stands for; proud of her growth; honoured to call so many remarkable women my sisters; and humbled by the many warm friendships that have been given to me.

Fun, friendship and philosophy. All worth preserving, certainly worth my volunteer time and energy.

A True PANda: My Panhellenic Experience


Have you ever wondered - what is it like to be a Panhellenic leader on my campus or in my community? Some of our members choose to become rising leaders in their collegiate or alumnae chapter, while others see leadership opportunities in their collegiate or alumnae Panhellenic. Many sorority women may think that engaging more in Panhellenic can draw you away from your chapter. Danielle Kushner, a member of our Gamma Theta Chapter at University of South Florida, is an advocate for Panhellenic leadership and tells us how growing close to her Panhellenic sisters at USF brought her even closer to AOII! 

We AOIIs went through recruitment to join a sorority. However, we cannot forget that we are all part of a community - our Panhellenic community. My sorority experience thus far has been involved in Panhellenic positions, and I am so thankful for the inspiration and experiences I have received from doing so!

I took on the role of Panhellenic Delegate for my chapter my first semester back in fall 2010. This position gave me the opportunity to travel to the Southeastern Panhellenic Conference (SEPC), where I fell in love with Panhellenic. I met Ginny Carroll, founder of the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation. I was instantly inspired by the movement to send women in poverty to school, and brought it back to my campus. That spring semester, all chapters of USF Panhellenic passed my motion to adopt Circle of Sisterhood as our Panhellenic philanthropy. 

I exceeded the expectation by then taking on the role of Director of Philanthropy for Panhellenic that ironically had an opening. Within that role, I led my university to be recognized by the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation campus spotlight, which can be read here: http://circleofsisterhoodfoundation.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/campus-spotlight-university-of-south-florida/         

I had met so many amazing women in other organizations as delegate and on Panhellenic cabinet, and that year I was invited to join a committee that created the council's 1-3-5 year plan. I also received Delegate of the Year and the Change Agent Award. 

One of my best friends, Alex, who served as the Kappa Delta Panhellenic delegate when I served as delegate encouraged me to apply for Panhellenic executive board with her. I was not thinking of applying but ended up doing so last minute! I was thrilled when Alex received Panhellenic President, and her inspiration led me to be the new Vice President of External Affairs. 

As VP External from December 2011 - December 2012, I gained a powerful perspective. I know I was meant to be an AOII and I am so lucky to be one - but I have connected with so many women in other organizations that made me realize how similar we all are. 

The position allowed me to attend the AFLV conference, led me to switch my major to Public Relations, landed me an internship with an outside company and had me appreciate being an AOII even more. I even started the official blog for our Panhellenic council, which was recognized by my University's online news. 

Everything I have done, even while disaffiliated, I have been representing AOII. I doubled up as a recruitment counselor (Pi Chi) this past recruitment, which added to my perspective. I witnessed women not ranking AOII at all and other women falling in love with AOII, as I kept my strong poker face and faith in my heart. 

I ended my term in receiving the Inspire Award and am now in my last year as a collegian. I decided to take a step back from Panhellenic to give more of my sisters who expressed interest in Panhellenic that opportunity to shine. My skills influenced me to bring it all back to AOII (with Panhellenic love mixed in, of course!) with my current position as AOII Vice President of Communications. 

Not only your AOII sisters have to be there for your joys and disappointments, and I take pride in my Panhellenic sisters! Take the chance toward any Panhellenic position you can - or just show up to a Panhellenic meeting and sit next to a woman in different letters, you never know where it will lead you.           

Danielle Kushner
Gamma Theta Chapter, University of South Florida
Initiated Fall 2010

The Circle of Sisterhood was created to bring ALL sorority women together for an important cause - raising funds to help young women in impoverished countries go to school and get an education that they might otherwise be denied. This cause has been sweeping Panhellenics and is an amazing way to partner with your Panhellenic leaders and sisters - learn more about the Circle of Sisterhood Foundation here! http://www.circleofsisterhood.org 
  


    Danielle (right) with Circle of Sisterhood Founder Ginny Carroll at AFLV in 2012. Ginny is a member of Alpha Xi Delta. 






Danielle (right) with her Pi Chi partner - right after getting to "run home" to their chapters at the end of recruitment!

Danielle (middle) and fellow recruitment counselors manning a Panhellenic booth over the summer. They are also pictured here with Gamma Phi Beta consultants helping to spread the word as Gamma Phi prepared to open a new chapter at USF. 

AOII has a strong sense of Panhellenic community at USF. Here are AOIIs Courtney Rogers (stripes) holding her Recruitment Counselor of the Year Award, Katherine Lopez Vasquez (blue dress) holding her Junior Panhellenic Member of the Year Award and Ariel Schiller holding the award AOII at USF received with Sigma Delta Tau as sisterhood sororities of the year. 



Joining a Sorority Based on Comfort, Not Color

The following blog post is a guest post from the Sorority Ever After blog written by AOII Monique Goring. Creating a new blog for AOII Fraternity has been a way for us to talk about the parts of our organization that might not be covered on our website or in To Dragma. The blog gives AOII a more conversational approach to topics like the events surrounding new colonizations, legacies, sisters with great stories, and more unique subjects. The post from Monique is just that—it addresses a topic such as “joining a sorority based on comfort and not color” that is true to the ideals of our organization.  Her perspective was such that Sorority Ever After published it, and we’re proud of her perspective! See the original post at http://sororityeverafter.com/guest-post-joining-a-sorority-based-on-comfort-not-color/


"Monique Goring is a member of Alpha Omicron Pi and responded to our prompt: 'We’ve gotten some email questions, and we’re looking for your help! Tell us about your positive experience as a minority in a Panhellenic chapter.' We thought it would be more useful for those of you with questions to read someone’s personal story. Monique has also expressed her willingness to speak with anyone individually. If you are interested in doing so, leave a comment or send us an email and we can get you connected with her.


Here is her guest post on her experience joining an NPC chapter. Thanks for the great insight & contribution, Monique! – Cheers, SEA"

 http://sororityeverafter.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Seniors1.jpghttp://sororityeverafter.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Semi.jpg

“Joining Alpha Omicron Pi in my sophomore year of college was truly one of the best decisions of my life. I never planned to join a sorority in college because my family is from the Caribbean, where Greek life is virtually unheard of. But, a sister in AOII drew me in and the chapter immediately welcomed me into their sisterhood. Considering the college and high school that I attended were predominantly composed of Caucasian students,  race and culture were never factors for me in determining whether or not to rush an NPC sorority. When I decided to check out the Greek organizations at my college I just wanted to to feel like I could be myself in whichever chapter I chose. I did and still do however face back lash now and then from other students of color about my decision to join AOII – a reality that future PNMs of color should be aware of but certainly not deterred by.  I think many Greek organizations have room for improvement in the way of cultural sensitivity, but I would not trade my membership in AOII for the world. Even my mother, who didn’t understand my membership in AOII for a long time, has come to appreciate the support my sisters offer me and the ways in which I have grown through AOII. As a collegiate, AOII helped me develop my leadership skills and confidence, and as an alumni, my sisters have helped ease the transition to a new city. I highly encourage any student of color who wishes to join an NPC sorority to give it a try and ultimately to decide which sorority is best for them on the basis of comfort, not color.”

–  Monique

Playing Nice in the Sandbox
by Courtney Dillard

I have a morning ritual that just sets my day off on the right foot--the gym, breakfast and coffee, and 20 minutes of Good Morning America.  It's the only time of day that's truly mine since there are no "honey, have you seen my shirts" and "Mama, can you help me find Lightning McQueens?"  I love the silence, and I always manage to sneak in a healthy dose of Facebook.  This morning was no exception, but I have to tell you a bit about what I saw on my newsfeed today.  And, prepare to see me step up on my soapbox momentarily.

By working with 35 women, I know most of my co-workers very well--their hobbies, their families, etc.  One topic that has come up with a co-worker is the prevalence of Facebook bullying, as experienced by her teenage daughter and some of her peers.  As time has gone on, I keep hearing more and more about this sad, yet (I'm finding) realistic phenomenon.  If you really dig down to it, it's not really even just for teenagers either.

I'm sure that you have all seen the occasional passive aggressive comment or status update on Facebook from friends.  I generally shrug these off as people unnecessarily airing our laundry that isn't quite so fresh--it's not really my style, but--hey, to each her own, right?  Well, this morning I realized that this social media inappropriateness spans generations.

A little ironic that this week is National Hazing Prevention Week... Consider me inspired!

I log in to see a friend of mine who has very descriptively posted a status update about watching a PTA volunteer enter her son's school--commenting on her choice of wedges and her last-year's spring season dress from Belk in comparison to the gym clothes chosen by a 'more confident' Facebook poster.  (The post went on and on past this, but I digress!) Although realizing that this friend is pretty quick witted and was probably using these descriptions to prove her point that "PTA Mom" was persnickety, snippy and shallow, using social media to make these points often backfires.  Seemed laced with judgement and pretty persnickety, snippy and shallow to me.

So, I did what any normal married woman would do and found my husband in his office to gauge the level of drama.  And, although I can sometimes myself read too much into things, my husband agreed.

Why all the meanness?

Maybe dressed up PTA mom wanted to make a good impression at school as a volunteer.  Maybe dressed-up PTA mom wanted shoes to make her a little taller so she would feel better.  In all reality, does it really, really matter?  Since when did the choice of attire to an event outweigh the content of their character.  And, is that really, really a personal rant that should be shared with thousands?

Enough with the mompetitive examples at your child's neighborhood schools, as these happen everyday in our schools and universities.  Unfortunately, AOII is not immune to the issue as well. The difference is that AOII calls us bring to each other and the world around us the values of tolerance and judgement.  We're human!  Issues sometimes come and go, but our sisterhood and commitment to being our personal bests cause us to face adversity with dignity and respect--not with a keyboard.

Social media is an incredible networking and communication tool, but we should all remember that each and every post, picture, and comment you make leaves a permanent mark on your reputation.  You might be able to delete it, but your hundreds or thousands of friends will have had access to it.  Facebook will always have it.  So, please, please, please think before you start typing.

PTA Mom will forever be known to many as THAT PTA Mom.  Love her or hate her, can't we all just build each other up?


Promoting the Development of Women, Not "Babies"
by Sandy Stewart, Alpha Chi (Western Kentucky )


As we get back to school and many of our chapters are welcoming their newest members into the AOII family, we feel it is the right time to address a concern among many NPC groups. Several of our fellow Panhellenic organizations have published blog posts or otherwise used social media to encourage chapters to continue using the term “New Members” and to move away from phrases that refer to our newest members as “babies.” We definitely support and commend our fellow NPC groups for being proactive on this issue - we sought the expertise of long-time AOII International Volunteer Sandy Stewart (Alpha Chi Chapter, Western Kentucky U) from AOII’s Education Committee to give us some perspective on this important issue.    


Sandy (far left) with AOII daughters Caitlin Gover (middle) and Courtney Eller.
 “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” No, I’m not already getting excited about Christmas, but I am one of those people that LOVES recruitment! It is so exciting every week to hear about the great recruitments that are going on everywhere and about our amazing New Members. We seem to be busting at the seams with all the New Members we’re getting this year!
I thought this would be a great time for all of us to think about our New Members. Most of them have left home for the first time, are in their first few years of college, learning to be independent. Wow, it gives me butterflies in my stomach just remembering those days! Now they have chosen us to be their family. Friends upon whom they must have no fear to call. We want to remember to treat them with great respect.  
A lot of NPC Chapters, including AOII chapters, have started to refer to their New Members as babies. We, in Alpha Omicron Pi, want to remember that our official terminology, as listed in our Ritual, is Sponsor and Candidate. However, the terms Big and Little Sister are acceptable. Other terminology, such as “Pledge Mom” and “Baby Pandas,” or anything else using the term “baby” is not acceptable.  
Let’s remember that these women have just left home. They’re testing their wings, not crawling like babies.  We definitely want to love on them and make them feel so welcome and know that AOII is the only place they could feel at home. We just need to remember and educate our members to treat them like the young women they are. Let’s continue to serve this wonderful Fraternity that we’re all a part of by encouraging them through this New Member period to become amazing members!
I’m going to continue to enjoy this “most wonderful time of the year” as I read our chapter blogs about their great recruitments and hear about the wonderful New Members we’re getting every day!



We thank Sandy for taking the time to help us address this issue, and hope that all of our members and Panhellenic sisters will continue to do the same!    

Our Only Constant... Change!

It's a little cliche, I must admit, but my father has always taken the opportunity to remind me that "the only thing constant in life is change."  Yes, I know, yada yada yada, right?  Well, in the world of the PI, I've learned to buckle my seatbelt.  Although our ideals and standards of Alpha Omicron Pi are unfazed, the generations of women who we call sisters change everyday.  It's our responsibility to ensure that we adapt to the evolution of our membership.  So, life in technology and communications can get interesting!

Just in the last year, our social media presence has exploded!  And although this is by no means our only form of communication, it's opened the doors for allowing more connections between members and reconnecting many members themselves. And everyday brings something new!

But, like most of you already know, getting adjusted to new developments has its 'aha' moments.

Believe it or not, there was truly a time in my life when my cell phone was just that....a phone!  Now, it's essentially a landing pad for my home office between my work office and my home office.  Aside from the tweeting, facebook'ing, and texting, I can check my online banking, update my family blog, and check tomorrow's CrossFit WOD almost simultaneously.  Welcome to multi-tasking at its finest!

Additionally, there was also a time with the term "facebook" might have been used for a friend who was deeply entranced in her reading material--now, it's one of our quickest and most effective outreach mechanisms for members and our external audiences.

A QR Code?  I must admit that the first time I saw a man use his smartphone to pay for his Starbucks, I probably tilted my head like a confused puppy.  And now we use it for promotions of event and extension opportunities.  Who knew?

This world of newness might seem a little overwhelming, right?  But, from one Type A, perfectionist woman to another, let me encourage you to take a deep breath and dive in.  It doesn't have to take over your life (it shouldn't!), but it's always a perfect time to learn something new!

AOII just recently launched a partnership with Groopt, a super-progressive technological company with the aim of connecting our members and simplifying chapter processes.  Yes, the lingo is a bit new.  Yes, the webpages look different.  But, the basis is still the same.  AOII is still the same phenomenal organization that was founded by four trailblazing friends over 115 years ago.  Although the left enormous shoes to fill, their legacy to us is so simplistic--to be a good friend, to love each other, and to share the light of AOII with the world.




 So, buckle your seatbelts!  It's going to be a great ride!









New Year

In the fall, we tend to focus on our collegiate chapters getting back to campus. In addition to this, there is a valuable group of AOIIs we'd like to connect with in the AOII new year - our most recent alumnae! I'm talking brand-spanking new alumnae, women who graduated in the 2011-12 year and are approaching their first August without an AOII collegiate calendar.

To these ladies, who we'll call the "Alumnae Class of 2012," consider this Round 2 of your new member experience! As you approach your first fall as an alumna, we remind you that your AOII journey is not over. Some of you have jumped straight in to life as an alumna member - joined your local alumnae chapter, expressed interest in joining an AAC in the near future, or are already volunteering during your local chapter's recruitment. Or maybe you're one of the nine fabulous Educational Leadership Consultants who just hit the road! That's a great way to stay involved, too. ;) No matter your means of staying connected, your continued involvement is tremendously important to Alpha Omicron Pi.

AOII has always been a part of my life, which is a testament to the importance of staying involved. My mom and grandmother are both AOIIs, so it felt natural for me to join an alumnae chapter immediately after college - my mom was already a member of the chapter, and serves as an International Volunteer for AOII. My grandmother stayed involved with Kappa Kappa Chapter's (Ball State U) Corporation Board and Muncie Alumnae Chapter until she passed away.

For my mom Sharon, staying involved after graduation was not as simple as it was for me. I'm an Army Brat, so we moved a lot when I was little, and my parents moved even more before I graced their lives (including being overseas twice). This was mostly during the 80s and early 90s, so needless to say, it was difficult for my mom to stay connected to AOII. She was able to join the Indianapolis Alumnae Chapter and enjoy AOII's sisterhood with a new group of women after we moved to Indianapolis and stayed put. Thankfully, new technology has become a remedy for AOIIs to stay connected wherever you may be!

Norma Cary Janeway's charter member class in 1952, Sharon Janeway Boison's pledge class in 1976, and mine in 2004.

What if they had not made an effort to stay connected? I may never have known that AOII existed, or felt as strongly about staying involved myself. And now here I sit with the above three photos in a frame on my desk. It is easier and more important than ever for our members to seek out AOII wherever life may lead.

This does not just apply to daughters or family members - when you stay connected to AOII, you spread the message of AOII and your love and excitement to ALL women around you. You could influence and touch the lives of women you volunteer with, students you teach, neighbors and family friends. Imagine this scenario - you dive head-first into your alumnae chapter, and then join another new group (your alumni association, for example) and meet an AOII who has not been connected in years. She hears what an amazing experience you're having with the AOII alumnae in the area, and she reconnects, too. She joins the local collegiate chapter's AAC, donates to a housing project for a chapter in need, or simply talks about reconnecting to AOII with several other women who have not been involved, who then reach out to AOII as well. That, among countless other connections, is a way of continuing your own AOII legacy. You may also encourage a young woman who was not thinking about going through recruitment to take that big step - even if she doesn't become an AOII, she'll experience Panhellenic life and all of its benefits.  

Regardless of whether you've embraced your newfound alumnae status wholeheartedly or not, there is one thing to remember - YOU are important to Alpha Omicron Pi. The collegiate experience may be the most formative years of your connection to AOII, but as you've been reminded with the phrase "AOII for a lifetime," there is much, much more to experience. And, there is a legacy for you to leave in your family, community, or wherever else you are able to spread your love for AOII.

Not all of our blogs will be this long, but, this happens to be something we are all extremely passionate about here :) If you need information about your local alumnae chapter or how to get involved with your local collegiate chapter, send us an email at aoiionline@alphaomicronpi.org. Do you have a family friend, a neighbor, a teacher, a family member, or someone else influential in your life who inspired you to become an AOII and stay connected? If you have a similar story, please share it with us! Become a follower of our Piece of the Pi blog and leave your comments for others to enjoy. Just think - you could be that person in a young AOII's life one day!

There are hundreds of AOII alumnae and collegiate chapters who want and value your support of AOII. I think these words written by Sharon Boison herself for a Network 3 newsletter sum things up perfectly:

"Alumnae volunteers and financial support are crucial in keeping our chapters strong. Supporting alumnae chapters also supports collegiate chapters. There is value in meeting sisters from all over, in all age groups, with whom we share our bond, our sisterhood. If every sister commits to never break her bond with it - oh the places we could go!"

Mom & me at Convention 2011 in Tucson!




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